SRINAGAR: In a stark indication that the situation in occupied Kashmir is far from normal, a delegation of civil society activists from India has been stopped by police from going outside Srinagar.
The Times of India reported on Sunday that for the second consecutive day, the five-member delegation led by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha was not allowed to go out of the main city of India-held Kashmir.
“We are not allowed to go out of Srinagar district,” the newspaper quoted Sushoba Bharve, who is a member of the Concerned Citizens’ Group, as saying.
So, the people who the delegation’s members were supposed to visit are instead visiting Srinagar to meet them, she said.
Bharve said that on Sunday the delegation would be meeting four to five groups of people in their Srinagar hotel.
Police are said to be humiliating families visiting leaders at sub-jail
She said police stopped them from going to Pulwama in south Kashmir and Budgam, the district that neighbours Srinagar.
On Saturday, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who is also a part of the delegation, said they had plans to go to Pulwama but were advised by the SSP (security) that the situation there was not conducive and there was the threat of an impending terrorist attack.
Meanwhile, Indian security personnel searched the MLA Hostel, where 32 senior leaders of the Kashmiri parties were shifted recently, hours after the inmates alleged humiliation of their families, including frisking of a child of a National Conference (NC) leader.
The Hindu said on Sunday the searches were conducted around 4pm, about two hours after the families of the 32 detained leaders met them and mounted a joint protest on the premises of the MLA Hostel against the “humiliation and harassment” they had been subjected to by the security personnel.
The two-year-old son of Tanvir Sadiq, political secretary to NC vice-president Omar Abdullah, was “unzipped and the child was body-searched” before he was allowed to meet his father along with his mother and grandfather.
“The kid has met his father several times since August 5. However, this is the first time he was body-searched,” a relative of Mr Sadiq told the daily.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former minister Naeem Akhtar’s daughter Sheryaar Khanam alleged that she was forced to taste the curd before allowing it into the sub-jail for her ailing father.
Another PDP leader Ashraf Mir’s wife said she was asked to remove socks so as to “humiliate her”. These incidents infuriated the inmates, who converged on the premises to stage a joint protest.
However, police termed the allegations “baseless”.
For her part, Iltija Mufti, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, said: “One assumes, certain J&K police officers drunk on newfound powers, are doing this to settle political scores.”
She also tagged the Union Home Minister’s Twitter handle with a message: “They are being treated worse than hardened criminals. Today, a detainee’s three-year-old infant son was nearly strip-searched, and this resulted in an altercation between political detainees.”
The Union Home Minister should personally look into the matter, she said. “Wondering if the PMO and HMO are in the loop about their vicious and vindictive behaviour.”
Ms Mufti also accused a senior police officer of facilitating the release of a former MLA “to engineer a new political front because the MLA in question has been visiting the families of the detainees and urging them to contact a former minister to secure their release from the sub-jail”.
She said the condition to secure their release depended on the willingness of the detainees to join a new front. “Since when has it become normal for an officer to interfere... in political matters...,” she asked.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2019